Match Preview: West Brom v Arsenal; A Respite from the Real World
It feels so long since I last wrote on Arsenal. The original plan was to take the first week of the interlull off then come back with some stories about areas that hopefully would’ve been of interest to everyone. However the events of last Friday took any desire to write about football instantly away.
In fact it is still kind of hard as everything has been put into perspective. The thing is sport – in this case football is a perfect way to at least leave the realities of the world behind for even a moment. It’s with that lens that we welcome back our beloved Arsenal.
Arsenal head on the road to visit West Bromwich Albion currently managed by Tony Pulis. Pulis is working in turning West Brom into a mold of his former teams – compact and defensively strong. They won’t look to play toe to toe with Arsenal. Instead they will sit deep in their defensive zone and look to counter Arsenal on the wings.
Tony Pulis and his teams have a reputation for playing hard-nosed “anti-football.” He instills a defensive discipline that is physical and at times can border on over the line. The interesting thing to note is that Pulis’ charges are one of the least penalized sides in the league. Which either means it’s not being seen or they’ve gotten really good at not playing in an overly aggressive style.
West Brom will likely play in a 4-4-2 (as shown below) which might be beneficial for Arsenal. With Wenger likely to stick to his 4-2-3-1 – it means numbers up situations in the middle of the pitch and gives Arsenal plenty of time on the ball. The key as is always the case with Arsenal can they do something with it when they have – especially against a side that will be well disciplined and compact.
The other issue for Arsenal is how do they come out? Do they come out with the energy of team looking to challenge for the title or one with heavy legs as has been the case recently? The big worry for the latter is, did Sanchez get any rest in his international sojourn for the national team.
Sanchez looked leggy and ragged in the last few matches before the international break. Unfortunately he was not rested in either of those games and its impact on his body remains to be seen. This is not a new situation for Sanchez. Prior to coming to Arsenal he had gone a stint of 79 games (World Cup included) without a rest. General thinking was if Ox and Ramsey were back, someone would be able to give Sanchez a spell on the bench. As it is, it looks like he will probably start (fingers crossed no injures.)
Unlike Sanchez, Mesut Özil was given the full break off from international duties. With their place in Europe already secure, German coach, Joachim Low decided to rest Arsenal’s midfielder.
Many will point to Sanchez to being the fulcrum of Arsenal’s drive to the top however, it is Özil and his silky way of controlling moments in the match – like the assist for Gibb’s goal v Tottenham that indicates his importance to this team. Without a relaxed and confident Özil Arsenal wouldn’t be where they are in the hunt for the Premier League title.
The other concern for Arsenal is Laurent Koscielny. Kos isn’t an injury worry but the boss indicated he was worried about the French centerback’s state of mind heading into the league fixture. Koscielny was on the pitch during the attacks in Paris. In the well-publicized friendly against England, Koscielny looked a man who the last place he wanted to be was on the pitch (so did most of the French national team.)
Wenger will have to assess Koscielny’s mindset ahead of this game and decide whether or not to let him rest or play.
Arsenal need this game. They need it especially since Man City play against Liverpool in what could be a hard match for them. They need this game for their French players who need to escape from the realities of last week. We need this game (well I do) for just the same reason.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Petr Cech. He is one game away from timing the league record for clean sheets. You know he wants it.
West Brom. Saido Berahino. Always a threat. Against a turned off Koscielny he could be a problem.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Walcott (calf), Rosicky (knee), Wilshere (leg), Welbeck (knee)
West Brom: Foster (knee), Gnabry (ineleigable – loan), McAuley (suspended – 1)
Referee: Marc Clattenburg (16M, 64Y, 2R)
Assistant Referees: S Beck, J Collin
Fourth Official: S Attwell
UK: BBC MOTD 1
US: USA Network 10:00AM EST
West Brom 0 – 2 Arsenal
Match Facts: (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta Sports)
- West Brom have registered just two wins in their 18 Premier League meetings with Arsenal (D3 L13), and are without a win against the Gunners in the last nine top-flight clashes.
- The Gunners have scored in every one of those 18 Premier League games against West Brom, the longest 100% scoring record of any side against a single opponent in Premier League history.
- West Brom have averaged 0.5 points per game against Arsenal in the Premier League, their joint-lowest return against any side they’ve met more than twice.
- The Gunners have taken 31 points from a possible 36 in the last 12 Premier League matches on the road (W10 D1 L1).
- Olivier Giroud has scored in four of his last six Premier League appearances.
- Since joining the club in 2012, Giroud has scored more headed goals than any other player in the Premier League (15), including one against West Brom in May 2014.
- Including blocked, West Brom have fired in the fewest shots this season (113) while Arsenal have mustered the joint-most (221, level with Man City).
- Only 56% of the shots on target faced by Arsenal have been from inside the penalty area – the lowest proportion in the top flight.
- Only Southampton (six) have scored more headed goals in the Premier League than West Brom and Arsenal (five each).
- 80% of the goals West Brom have scored have been netted in the 15 minute periods either side of half time.